Is Bravery Virtuous?
The most important early witness to the official attitude of the Church is the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus. Theoretically the Church authorities kept their hands clean since, after condemnation for heresy in the ecclesiastical courts, the victims were handed over to the civil authorities who actually carried out the death sentences. The distinction was grossly artificial and the ultimate responsibility was that of the Church. In the West at the start of the second millenium, various limitations were imposed on warfare by Church councils, such as the prohibition against fighting on Sundays and Church Festivals. During the first three centuries of its history, the Church offered a model of still greater heroism in the courage displayed by the martyrs in their sufferings and the endurance of cruel deaths. During the Second World War, in Yugoslavia, Catholic Croatians carried out a religiously motivated slaughter of Serbs belonging to the Orthodox Church.